The prospects for action on climate have never been better

22 Jun 2015

A series of trends has combined to radically change policies among the largest emitters

CLIMATE change has been called “the greatest challenge facing the world,” and it has certainly been one of the most intractable. At countless international meetings dating back to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 everyone has argued that someone else should bear more of the burden. Meanwhile, emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have continued to grow.

Even more significant has been the resistance of the political right in the English-speaking countries. Large sections of this group, including senior political figures, see climate change as a socialist conspiracy cooked up to impose world government. To pick just one example, Maurice Newman, prime minister Tony Abbott’s business adviser, recently asserted that the United Nations was “using false models showing sustained temperature increases to end democracy and impose authoritarian rule.” In Canada and Australia, governments influenced by these views have done their best to stop or roll back mitigation policies.

In these circumstances, many observers have concluded that we are past the point of no return, and that dangerous climate change (warming of 2 degrees C or more) is inevitable. Others have concluded that only some drastic fix will solve the problem. Their various, and incompatible, suggestions include large-scale geo-engineering, a crash program of building nuclear power plants, and the abandonment of industrial civilisation…

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